What Really Works

It all started in November of 2014, when ASM-Link invited Knowinnovation to facilitate a Mentoring Strategies Workshop. During this workshop, we used an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) approach to focus on what worked for our participants when they were mentoring others. We came out of that workshop with several stories and an urge to gather more.

one_to_one_chatWith a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) we were able to do just that. Over the next year, we set up interviews with academics, researchers, and scientists across the country to gather insight about what works when mentoring underrepresented minorities. We asked them to describe a time that made them most proud, a high point when they mentored someone successfully to do something challenging, or to detail the most memorable parts of the mentoring experience, including the challenges.

We also adapted the Four Ps framework for mentoring: the Personal characteristics that aided in the mentoring success, the Process for mentoring, the environment or Press that each mentor provided (both physical and psychological), and the outcome, or Product, of the mentoring experience.

But we did more than reach out to successful mentors: we made sure to interview their respective mentees as well. During those interviews, we asked similar questions, but from a flipped perspective. And with insight from both ends of the mentoring relationship, we gained a greater understanding of what truly works in mentoring underrepresented minorities.

After each interview, a recording was sent off to a professional transcriber, and we coded the data, looking for commonalities and patterns. The interviews turned into stories that captured the essence of the mentoring experience. Piece by piece, we were building a book. We just didn’t know it right away.
What Works: Weaving Mentoring into Teaching, Research, and Service is a compilation of habits, skills, environments, tools, techniques, and processes that can be tweaked and applied to any mentoring situation. The book is a guide for mentors and the stories act as examples for individuals who aren’t quite sure where to start. But more than anything, What Works is a work in progress. We’re constantly looking for new interviews and stories from mentors who have been successful in broadening participation. Maybe you have a story to share?


Know Further:

A free Kindle version of What Works can be found here.